Faculty Research Profile: Jo Yarrington

Submitted by Meredith Guinness, Assistant Director, Media Relations on May 14, 2014

JY_Fairfield_Water_layout[1]Courses taught: Foundation Drawing, Printmaking, Junior and Senior Seminar
Research interests: I am a traveler, an artist and collaborator and a compagne, in the very purest sense of that word. On my journeys around the world, as I experience both place and community life, I interact and engage as tourist and outsider. My photographs serve not as documentation (in the way of becoming a relic), but rather as a witness to an ephemeral event that often occurs while I am alone. I forget the photograph but see the phenomena.

Water research: The notion of water has been a part of my own research, a metaphor, a referencing of how we navigate the deep and unruly terrain between psychological spaces and physical places. I recently have completed and compiled material for a three-book project called The Falling Edge: Iceland, Venezuela, and Bhutan (2004-2012), with Dr. Kim Bridgford, a practicing poet, current Director of the West Chester University Poetry Center and former professor at Fairfield University. The imagery and poetry in the three books is all about the edge, the falling edge of waterfalls and misting Amazon jungles, the edge of islands, erupting into the sea, and the broken edge of rain soaked mountain roads rising up to 14,000 ft. peaks in the Himalayas.

Professor Bridgford’s and my next project, The Rotating Axis, to be completed over the next 10 years, will go to places close to the equator, and toward the southernmost and northernmost parts of the globe. We will be beginning at the Seychelles, then going to the Galapagos Islands, then to Patagonia, the tip of South America, and finally to Newfoundland, in northern Canada. Our goal will be to photograph, and write about, these axes and our journeys traversing the globe from island to island to melting ice caps. We will and trace these lines, both literally and metaphorically, through lines of photography as well as lines of poetry.

In addition, I am working on a project with two other artists, one from Ireland and the other a studio professor emeritas from the University of Illinois. In the summer of 2013, we spent two weeks as invited Fellows at the Cill Rialaig Artist Residency, located on the farthest point west of the Ring of Kerry, working on a project called On the Edge and In Between: The Skelligs and the Blaskett Islands. By researching and exploring specifically the Skelligs and the Great Blasket Islands, both groups of islands on the edge- the fullness’ and the voids, we engaged with the rich historical, social, literary, spiritual and visual elements of these deserted places, reclaiming the past and by our responses asserting something new into their present. The ‘field-work’ we gathered on boat excursions from the edge of the Irish continent to the edge of each island served as the basis for working in the studio. And through its geographic proximity to the islands, we saw Cill Rialaig, another site abandoned and then reclaimed, this perfect retreat fostered dialogue, enabled us to share ideas of our own experiences, and helped us to evaluate our individual exterior/interior reactions. This collaborative residency and the work that has ensued will result in an international exhibition, in Ireland, in 2015.

Currently, I am working on a project with two photographers specializing in alternative processes, Morgan Post and Sam Dole, for the November 2014 exhibition at Artpace Gallery, New Haven, Unbound. Our proposal, titled Containment and Spillage, is to develop and produce a book object that responds to and comments on nuclear waste plants in Connecticut, the process of using coolants in the reactors and the potential long term effects of the slow seepage of radioactive materials into the surrounding land and waterways. Our choice of the book’s materials, processes, structure and concept is based on history, the interweaving of our own and Connecticut’s, our individual and shared practice as artists, and the political nature of selected sculptural books in the Alan Chasanoff collection.

The project will focus on the still functioning Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford CT (circa 1970) and the Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant site (the Plant was dismantled) in Haddam Neck, CT. Our initial process will involve researching the two plants’ histories, practices and documented environmental issues and concerns; photographing the plants and surround sites; and collecting samples. We also have been in contact with engineering professors specializing in fluid dynamics at Fairfield University and at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to explore the dynamics of flow specifically relating to Nuclear Power Plants and how nuclear waste slips into the surrounding sites/soil and waterways. Additional research will involve an exploration of Connecticut’s industrial connection to early photographic practice, including the pivotal influence of brass and lens manufacturing in Waterbury.

The structure of the proposed book object will be defined by contexutal dichotomies – absence/presence, interior/exterior and containment/spillage. Key components will include the use of uranium for a number of processes and procedures employed in the formation of the book (Uranotypes printed on found surfaces/declassified documents, Uranium Iron used to color stained glass panels yellowish orange), translucent photographs as image projections (historic and contemporary magic lantern slides and medium format positives of pertinent Connecticut sites, appropriated images of cancer cells, glass slides of gathered soil, food and water samples), a vintage Waterbury lens and an LED panel.

The book will be 13” H x 13”W x 13” D book, encased in an unpainted lead container, closed and secured with a vintage brass hook, will be made of a mix of materials, including brass, lead and glass. The exterior of the book will be painted with a “1950”s kitchen green” color using lead-based paint. The book will unfold and reconfigure its shape to accommodate its varying functions as an evolving narrative, a Magic Lantern show, a forensic laboratory, a print viewing station and a reliquary (with a stained glass component). In its different configurations, it will both allow light into a closed container, revealing through various actual and symbolic openings its complex and dark interior holdings and also to project those components, as evidence, out, providing a wider environmental element to the work.

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